Thoughts on Charlie Francis and soccer

I still find it hard to believe that a goalkeeper could be stimulated enough by game play to “improve” the qualities required by the higher end activities of their game. That would be one busy goalkeeper.

If you examined everything they did - in games and in practice - perhaps the workload (particularly through repetitive goalkeeper drills) could be enough to improve explosive qualities. It may not be necessary to include weight training and general explosive training (plyos, med-ball) in their overall plan if the volume and intensity of work in drills was appropriate.

However, I would think that many goalkeepers could benefit greatly from work in the weight room - even in season. This may not be done presently, but does not mean that it shouldn’t or couldn’t be done optimally.

A baseball pitcher would be busier throughout a game, but would have significantly greater recovery between games. The American football kicker (if they punted and place-kicked) may also be busier, combined with any running they had to do during special teams play.

That made me laugh … if you think how badly the rest of the team are trained often those very goalkeepers are that busy!

Back strain picking ball out of the net usually!

I honestly had no idea that some of these leagues play 10 months out of a year.

A very limited training opportunity combined with a very long season, no wonder the injury rates are so high. Even the fittest athletes would find it challenging to remain healthy under such conditions.

Are all the top level seasons that long?

Yes,as of my knowledge.
Your words:“A very limited training opportunity combined with a very long season” describe the outmost reality of all top level teams in Europe,both for players,coaching,and medical staff’s.

My whole point being: every small desired improvement comes as a response of combined stimuli.For that improvement to take place the complex nature of the main stimulus has to be given attention first and foremost,and that is always the one provided game after game.
All other training has to be balanced against that if improvement and performance are seeked.
And in the case of the Goalkeeper…no one else can do his job,while on the field!

I’m guessing NumberTwo is making a point about the relative number of activities a goalkeeper would make in the course of a 90 minute game.

That is, how many shots on goal, how many blocks, etc. is he having to make in terms of actually providing a stimulus beyond standing around. And is that alone sufficient to train him to do what he needs to do.

Exactly. Depending on who you are playing, weather conditions, and the issues Lyle identified, you could have a very inactive game or a very active one. And this difference in activity can be profoundly more pronounced than on any other position on the field (i.e. standing around a lot, versus jumping around all game). No one is arguing against the fact that the specific stimulus provided by the game is the most important. However, if you are not getting enough exposure to that stimulus, detraining will occur. This could even be argued for an ice-hockey goalkeeper - even though the playing environment is much smaller.

Other training elements - although component parts of the whole - can be altered in volume to make up for any short-comings of game play.

I make these game-by-game alterations for all of the sports I work with. My in-season training plans will reflect what qualities are being worked or not being worked throughout the course of the competitive season, thereby optimizing their preparedness for the end of the season for post-season play.

For a goalkeeper, you could easily monitor their explosive qualities with a simple vertical jump test throughout the season. Very little cost to the athlete, but a good measure of explosiveness (that could also be used to monitor their recovery).

Here is a question - what do the top goalkeepers do for training? Do they lift weights? Do they perform significant aerobic training? Do they do jump training? Or, are they simply sticking to game specific drills and game play?

Perhaps the top keepers only stick to the game specific work. Does this make it correct? Could they be optimizing their training? It goes back to the same old question of:

  • Are the top players in sports simply so talented, that training outside of the game can be very general and infrequent - because their skill is so much more important?


  • Could the top players even be better if they were following an optimized training plan that included all of the critical training elements (including recovery and regeneration work)?

Just as a side note… A friend of mine was working with one of the top baseball players in Major League Baseball. This player was injured when he came to him. He didn’t actually follow a training regime in previous off-seasons. But he was still one of the top players. The simple fact that this player actually engaged in a training plan eliminated the injury issue and has allowed him to be even better this season. This is not an isolated case, particularly in skill-intensive sports.

A basketball analogy would be say, Kobe Bryant versus Alan Iverson. I met Kobe’s trainer when Charlie and I did a seminar back in LA in 2003. Kobe trained hard. Iverson didn’t train.

for a sound discussion of training means and aims we have to start from what they are paid for, no?
So, 10 months is a fact. Leagues stop in early or late May and new seasons (GPP) start in early-mid july (this is general, in Russia and Germany it is different and it is also dependent on national and international cups).
We cannot have a meaningful discussion if we ignore this simple facts. In earlier posts I wrote that too many people ignore the reality.

This is true - however, where we have to be careful is how the training methods for these pros can trickle down to the lower development levels and take hold. In fact, it may be taking hold already.

We have a problem in Canada with athletes spending too much time on the field, without developing other qualities. Of course, we have other problems with development of soccer players in this country, but I only have a limited number of characters I can type in this box.

I will give some general answers.

It is interesting that the forward Adriano just got with his new team (Roma), with a belly more appropriate for the Oktober Fest. I think he is around 110 kg. You know what? Given the bad shape and weight, they moved from a 1 a day session to 2 a day sessions. Now, do you consider that appropriate? Do any of those brilliant people thought about 1) making him eat a lot less and putting the booze away from the table and then 2) increase the workload. Are they stupid, ignorant or what?

N2, keep in mind that at least in soccer, the greatest players (not good, not so and so, great) spent hours and hours and hours again when they were child (and therefore more plastic) in simply playing the game, in backyards, fields and so on (read their biographies, no one is saying that max strenght training was responsible for their greatness, it was some divine intervention or those hours on the field). They were not, pass me the metaphor, built in the lab.
So, what are the traits of great players, how did they develop their skills?
It is clear that there is room for improvement and there are a lot of good players who would be positively influenced by more sound training plans.

So, my post here has to be put in the right context (I’m all in favour of sound training plans and development of athletic abilities, periodization, long-term development), but at the same time success leaves clues.

Very good responses. Thank you.

The same could be said for basketball, ice hockey, baseball and other sports. American football tends not to have the same early specialization requirements (except for quarterbacks), although many top players did excel in other sports (basketball, soccer, baseball, track).

In my college players, there were several girls playing 6 games a week right now, with their college seasons less than 5 weeks away. The games, 60min and 90 minutes in length, were leading to fatigue, and as now surprise, have lead to poor performance in workouts. So I had one dad keep a running clock of the amount of ball possession his daughter had in a game. From EPL studies, their estimates were ~3minutes per game on average. This dad’s daughter, a defender, had it a whole 8.6 seconds in the first half. Obviously most of the possession were quick one touch passes. Another player, a forward, had a total of 14 seconds in the first half.

So at this rate, 6 games x a generous 20 seconds of possession per game = 2 minutes total ball time throughout the week from games.

My point to these players are, you have a 6-12 week off-season, use it wisely. work on speed, strength, fitness, skills, and dont worry about the games. The athlete in discussion, also has been surpassed for a goalie who is 30 lbs overweight. When I expressed this to the girl and the dad, I thin they got my drift, maybe she needs more time with me and less kicking it.

Now obvious, at the professional level, things change altogether. But what is done to keep them there, and what it takes to get them to that level, are 2 separate things altogether.

Well, 6 games a week is not a matter of training program, it is a problem of sanity. Also (especially) at the high level is unheard of.
I’m totally in favour of time spent away from games during the off-season. At the same time, in the training program, some elements linked to games have to maintained to avoid problems when season starts (tightness, minor injuries etc.) . But yes, staying there and getting there are two different subjects, but too little - formal and informal - study has been done to disentangle the various drivers of performance. How about attitude (loosely defined, of course)? Do you think it is not important? Next time, look not at the skills, not at the athletic abilities, but at the attitude and behaviour of top players. A coach can do great things in that department.

The first and most important thing in Al Vermeil’s pyramid of performance is attitude. Agreed 100%. Again, more for the developing player, rather than the highest level. I speak from the development standpoint.

I agree with you, mainly because if attitude is necessary for success, people who had success had/have the right attitude. At the same time, at the highest level, changes in attitude can be one of the drivers of the transition from good to great (as the book).

Excellent discussion.
I like the comment about success leaving clues.
I think someone I knew well for the past 22 years said.
" dont fix it if it aint broken"
James Francis will not be the last to challange current training dogma this site was created to espouse.

For sure in the US there is a traditional method of training for soccer, which resembles playing games, and running cross country style fitness sessions. I have seen this recommended at nearly 15 different colleges, male and female programs.

I will post some “speed” sessions from several schools. This will be good for a laugh. the sad part is, one school who does (or did ) this, is probably the most successful team of any sport. More comments to be posted later…

aussie keeper mark schwarzer rated by many as one of the worlds best keepers is a workaholic doing a minimum of 3-4 sessions a week in his own time…

mark paston who had a fantastic WC in goals for then kiwis does gym 3 times a week…